Q: My adult children are searching for a new dog. They just graduated from college but are not fully employed yet. What does it cost to own a pet? Of course, I am the mother and worry about everything. Should I be concerned?

Oh, my goodness! Mom, you have asked the question I wish all pet owners would ask BEFORE they purchase or adopt a pet.

Did you know only 1 out of every ten dogs born will find a permanent home? I should repeat that only 1 out of ten dogs see a permanent home. One of the main reasons animals are in shelters: owners give them up.

Pet ownership is one of the great privileges we have. It is not a rite because not everyone is capable of the responsibility. That little life depends on us, and we must be prepared to support that pet’s needs.

While the benefits, like companionship, love, loyalty, friendship, etc., of pet ownership, are immense, you need to consider the responsibilities, like food, exercise, shelter, health, etc.

One of the duties of pet ownership is financial. Surveys and statistics show that the average 1st-year expenses of pet ownership are two to three thousand dollars. That is a lot of money. This number covers the basics, such as food, supplies, licenses, spay/neuter, preventative medications, veterinary, etc. Over your pet’s lifetime (12-18 years) you can expect to pay approximately $20,000.00. These costs are for commonly expected things, not medical emergencies, broken bones, lacerations or other unexpected expenses, like a dog walker, grooming, boarding, or property damage.

The majority of the expenses of pet ownership are non-veterinary, as the veterinary portion is only about 20%, but being a veterinarian myself I can address that 20%, and offer suggestions to potential new owners.

First of all, plan for the expected by adding an item to your budget for your pet’s health care. Use the figures above and save monthly. Secondly, you should expect the unexpected. Do not put yourself (or your pet) in the position of having a medical emergency and being unable to afford the care. It is your responsibility to prepare for this occurrence. The best way to handle this is to have an Emergency Fund (separate from the budget for routine care). Health Care Credit Cards, Pet Health Insurance, and Wellness Plans are also ways to plan for your new pet’s health care. These plans are much better than they use to be when I started veterinary medicine years ago.

All of my pets I have loved dearly and I believe they loved me. I attribute this to taking my responsibility seriously, and this forged a relationship that was special. As I look back, I have nothing but fond memories that are the result of an investment of time and resources that paid big dividends. I recommend pet ownership, but only after you have considered the details, then you also can share the mutual love that pet ownership offers. Great questions mom! And to everyone else, keep this article and pass it on the next time a friend or family says they are getting a pet.